Laila Keeling & Anjali Zyla
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This interview was conducted with 14-year-old Malia and her mother Eliana, both from Chechnya. Malia translated for her mother.


We are from Chechnya and we have always lived there, but we came to Germany in 2015 because of Russia. Mom had a restaurant in Chechnya, and she worked there. Dad worked at a company handing out juices and stuff. Dad had a problem in Chechnya, and Mom wanted us kids to be able to go to school, so that’s why we came here. But everything else in Chechnya was okay.

Mom didn’t really try to imagine life in Germany before we came here. It all happened too fast for that. We didn’t actually plan to come here either, it all happened very quickly. It was because of Dad’s problem. We first went to Dagestan, and then we went to Germany.

I was 7 when we moved here. The trip to Germany was pretty normal. We traveled by train a lot, but it was actually quite normal. We went from Chechnya to Moscow by train, then to Poland, and then from there to Germany.

When we arrived in Germany, we went to the camp in Eisenhüttenstadt for just 10 days, and since then we have been in this home. So it has been almost 7 years. In Eisenhüttenstadt it was really dirty. We were living in these containers and it was really dirty. Mom was always crying because it was really dirty, but then after 10 days we came here.

The whole family is here now. So both of us, my dad, and my three brothers. They are all younger than me. One of my brothers was born here. He’s going to be 6 this year and he’s going to school. School is good; we haven’t had any problems in school yet. I have actually forgotten most of Chechnya because we have been here for so long now. We like it here.

My oldest brother is in a football club and in a wrestling club, and my other two brothers are also in the wrestling club. So we kids have contact with other Germans because of school and stuff, but our parents don’t.

The first bit of time here in this home was really good, but now it has become worse and very dirty, because there are just too many residents now.

On a daily basis mom does what all moms do; cook, clean up, take care of the kids. She always cleans the kitchen and the hallway. She doesn’t care if she gets paid for it or not. The main thing is that it’s clean where she is. She doesn’t get paid for it, but the other flatmates are grateful to her.

Mom went to a German course once, but that was it. The course was B1. She wants to go to another course. She didn’t pass B1, but she passed A2. If she had had time to study for the course, it would have been easy. But she didn’t have time, so it was hard. The problem is that there are too many residents here. Everyone’s shouting and running around and singing, there’s too much noise outside, you can’t concentrate on anything. Mom also has to take tablets because she doesn’t have a good memory. She does remember a lot of things, but some things she just forgets. The little things she forgets. So that makes it a bit hard with the course.

There are lots of other people in the home who speak Russian. My mom has many people with whom she can speak Russian. By now, we’re doing okay with the language. At the very beginning it was difficult, because we couldn’t speak German, but now that we children can translate everything and our parents can understand a little bit, it’s not so difficult anymore.

Dad wanted to get a job, but he hasn’t yet. He doesn’t have a work permit yet. He had an operation on both of his feet, so he also has a lot of foot pain.

Our problems here are that the showers and everything else are very dirty, and there are just too many residents in the home, so sometimes there are fights. Everything else is okay, it’s just a problem that the shower and bathrooms aren’t in your own room, so we all have to use them together. For example, right now the women’s bathroom on the 2nd floor is broken, so it’s gotten worse than usual. Now we’re waiting for the 2nd floor to get fixed. Mom says if she could improve anything about the system here, it would be the toilets. We get along with the home’s manager and social workers. But we don’t need any help or support, we’re fine as we are.

We haven’t gotten permission to look for housing yet. Whether or not we have permission, we don’t absolutely need our own apartment now. We don’t want to live here, but maybe a shared living situation or something where we can have our own bathroom and shower and stuff.

We have no problems with Germany. Sometimes people point at us and make some kind of signs with their hands because we wear headscarves. But we ignore them. We left our country because of a problem, and in Germany our parents just want us to be able to go to school and do everything we want.

I just want to get good grades here, and find a good job. I have to do an internship this month, and I was thinking about maybe doing it in the social work field. I don’t want to live in this place in the future; I want to live somewhere else, not in this home or anything. By now, I actually know almost all the people in this home, in 7 years you can get to know most people. So maybe I would want to live in Berlin or something.

Mom says there’s this problem with Ukraine and Russia, and a lot of German people have started treating us weird. For example, our bank accounts got blocked, and then they opened them back up. We went to the bank, and Mom wasn’t allowed to open a new account because they said with the Ukraine Russia situation we weren’t allowed to, but then she tried to do it anyway. Last Friday we had an appointment and they did reopen the account, but they said we had to wait.

People behave differently because we are from Russia, but we are also against it. We are against this situation too. We have nothing to do with it. Just because Putin and Kadyrov are together, we can’t help it.

Mom says everything will be fine. As long as we do everything we can, everything will be fine. We are still in the asylum procedure and have our court date this year in June. We don’t have a tolerated status currently. But when we have our court date, we might have to leave this town, or go somewhere else. Or we may get residency. We’ll either be told we can stay here and get our own housing, or we’ll be sent back to our country. In the summer, that decision will be made.

Mom wants the German people to know not to make signs when they see us, and to accept all people as they are. After all, we don’t do anything to them, we don’t make signs at them. So they should just treat us like they treat their other German friends. There are many German people who are nice. But others are strange. People react way too aggressively when they see our headscarves; they yell a lot. Apparently, it has also happened to my mom in the grocery store. Just because we wear headscarves, it does not mean that we are not people. It’s not like we can help it.


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